Choral Music

Richard Boukas has been a professional choral singer, composer, arranger and conductor for more than five decades. His extensive experience in early music and contemporary repertoire manifest directly in his organic approach to choral composing and arranging: employing imitative contrapuntal textures in musical idioms which normally do not accommodate them; a keen sense of choral linear integrity and independent part writing; an agile harmonic and stylistic range which meld and juxtapose choral eras from early Renaissance to the present.


Boukas has created a collection of adaptations of Brazilian classics from seminal pianist-composer Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934), Pixinguinha (1897-1973), Radamés Gnattali (1906-1988), MPB legends Milton Nascimento, Sérgio Santos and Guinga.

Some of these arrangements featured include:

MPB (música popular brasileira)

• Áfrico*   • Abertura   • Sincretismo* (Sérgio Santos)
• Travessia (Milton Nascimento)
• Senhorinha (Guinga)

* requires guitar accompaniment

Choral Scat Choros

• Odeon (Ernesto Nazareth)
• Remexendo (Radamés Gnattali)

Four of these arrangements were premiered by the Queens College Vocal Ensemble (QCVE) under the direction of James John, Director of Choral Activities at the Aaron Copland School of Music in New York City. He is also artistic director of Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble. Boukas joined QCVE as guitarist on two Sérgio Santos compositions.

During Queens College's Year of BrazilQCVE presented four concerts including Boukas Brazilian arrangements.

The audio player below features four arrangements of works by Minas Gerais composers Sérgio Santos and Milton Nascimento by the Queens College Vocal Ensemble.

The character of these arrangements is richly sonorous, exploiting and expanding the intrinsic harmonic sophistication of Minas Gerais composers. Boukas sets the original Portuguese texts by legendary poet, lyricist and ubiquitous collaborator Paulo César Pinheiro.

Boukas has also written a collection of "instrumental scat" arrangements of choros by Nazareth, Pixinguinha, Radamés Gnattali, Guinga. 

Choral directors and educators interested in performing/recording Boukas’s Brazilian arrangements and commissioning original works can CONTACT Richard Boukas directly.

View a summary of all Richard Boukas activities during the Queens College Year of Brazil.


Boukas's comprehensive choral endeavor between 1987-94 was his transformations of nearly twenty pieces based on Beatles compositions, informally known as “The Beatles Motets”. Neither commissioned by a singular choir, publisher or recording project, they were written simply to explore what Boukas calls "choral hedonism"– exploiting idiosyncratic choral devices which are the food upon which choral singers feast: madrigal's word-painting, complex contrapuntal textures and "legitimatized dissonances" Boukas assimilated from his performance and study of English masters Tallis, Byrd, Weelkes, Purcell to Italian madrigalists Marenzio, Monteverdi, Gesualdo, German Baroque masters Schütz, Buxtehude, Bach and Romanticists Schumann and Brahms.

The result is a pan-stylistic reflection and potentiation of the original Beatles' melodies through liberal reharmonizations, motivic fragmentation and totally new episodic material. In fact, were the text not sung, the original melodies of some of these motets would not be readily recognizable. The pieces range from four to six independent parts: SATB and ATTB to SATTB and SATTBarB.

Since 2024 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Beatles' arrival on the popular music scene, there is renewed interest in the Beatles Motets among choral directors, publishers and recording companies. 

The most ambitious of the Beatles Motets is the three-movement work “Cantata: Please Please Me”- a clear tribute to Bach and his highly contrapuntal choral cantata writing. This live performance is by the acclaimed Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble under the direction of James John (with whom Boukas has also collaborated in his Brazilian Choral Works. 

Following Cantata Please Please Me are two Beatles Motets multitracked by Boukas in the studio:

She's Leaving Home and And I Love Her.

Choral conductor inquiries are welcome for both Brazilian Choral Works and Beatles Motets.


Aside from his affinity for arranging and transforming pre-existing pieces, Boukas is actively engaged in creating new choral works in collaboration with established choirs and commissioning organizations. The texts he sets can be in any language, and the writing style totally responsive to the spirit of the text and the artistic/ programmatic interests of the commissioning organization.



other Richard Boukas Composer pages:


Brazilian Choral Arrangements

Beatles Motets

Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Dr. James John. The ensemble gave a landmark performance of Boukas Beatles Motet "Please Please Me" (see audio player above, tracks 1-3)

Richard Boukas with James John, conductor/director of choral activities, Queens College/Aaron Copland School of music.

James John and Richard Boukas with members of the QCVE after their "Birds, Barber, Brazil !" performance.

Director James John and Queens College Vocal Ensemble warming up for their final season performance.